How They Raised Series A: Farewill
The Family (AAA) Stories
Life’s two great certainties are death and taxes. Farewill is hoping to combine the two, delivering simple, quick and easy-to-use tools for will writing online. In just under two years, it is already the largest will writer in the UK, writing more than 1 in 30 wills. Co-founder Dan Garrett was kind enough to give us an inside look at how they raised their Series A round in January 2019 🤖
How long did it take you to raise Series A?
- From first meeting to signed term sheet was very quick for us — about 4 weeks. But that was just the tip of the iceberg!
- I think we did a pretty good job of preparing — starting off by meeting other CEOs who’d gone through their Series A (Tim from Tessian, Christian from Paddle, Adam from SuperCarers, Julia from CrowdJustice among others). They kindly went through their decks and models, talked about what went well and which bits they’d improve. I don’t think we’d have raised half as much without their
help. Also Mathilde Collin’s legendary Series A & B decks were incredibly helpful.
- After the first 2 weeks of preparation, I spent 4 weeks by myself, getting everything straight in my head, and then a first version of the deck. Over that time, I was running things past my co-founder Tom and a few of our investors.
- One of the most frustrating points was feeling like I’d cracked it, then hearing from Tracy Dorée and Alex Dunsdon (two of our seed round investors), that it just wasn’t quite there.
- I went back to the drawing board and re-did the deck 5 times in total, until I felt it did our team, product and market justice. Then it was time to go!
Did you think about fundraising/networking with Series A investors since the day you raised seed, or did you ignore it until you felt 100% ready?
- I met with investors we liked occasionally in between the two rounds — but it wasn’t front of mind. With a great deck, good traction, and good investors who’ve got your back, getting meetings when we came to raise was quite doable.
How much did you raise and from whom?
- We raised £7.5m from a combination of existing investors and new angels and funds. Augmentum Fintech lead the round — with Tim Levene joining our board. Tim’s energy and experience is quite unbelievable. Apart from launching Betfair in 75 countries in 150 days, he’s also just funny, kind and a pleasure to be around.
- We were also delighted to bring Taavet Hinrikus on (co-founder of Transferwise), who’s given me and my co-founder some of the best advice we’ve had so far.
- It’s tough to put a number on what to raise and it’s got pros and cons either way. Tim was incredibly straightforward and honest with us. Everyone in Augmentum believes in our market and didn’t want us to raise too little. There’s a massive opportunity in changing the way the world deals with death and we put a good case forward for how we’d use the cash.
What was the biggest difference between raising Seed & Series A?
- It depends on the type of business you’re running — whether it’s a numbers-raise or a story-raise (e.g. are you headlining with 30% month-on-month growth, or with the opportunity).
- For us, we’d grown to be the biggest will writer in the UK within 18 months of launch, so the traction was there. But we went in head-first on our story. Not many investors have seen the death market before and it’s an incredible space for disruption.
- So it was similar-ish to our seed round — pitching a big vision for what we wanted to change, but with a bit more under our belt to justify the size of round.
What do you wish you had known before starting? What would you do differently?
- Russell Buckley from Kindred gave me some great advice — avoid making a deck for customers, and make sure to make one for investors. It’s so easy to get into the groove of pitching the customer benefit, and forget that you’re essentially selling an investor a product.
- Which plays out into what I’d do slightly differently next time — you’ve got to remember that the investor is buying into the market as much as you and your traction. If you’ve never seen what the wills and probate industry looks like, or how it ties into wealth transfer and a huge range of related services, then it’s hard to put that model together yourself. That’s as much of the pitch as your product and growth — and you don’t want an investor to draw a different conclusion about the scale of the opportunity.
What can you tell us about the lawyers, financial advisors or other service providers you used?
- Yes! We have an absolutely stellar lawyer called Ted Dewhurst — recommended by Tim Sadler at Tessian. He’s been around the block a bunch of times — including as Legal Counsel at Balderton, so he already knows most of the legal teams who’ll work on venture rounds. I can’t tell you how phenomenal Ted was — I felt probably 5% of the stress I had felt closing our Seed round and everything went really smoothly (including writing the docs from scratch).
Was your data organised? Did you build a data room?
- We didn’t have anyone in finance at the time so the model wasn’t exactly GAAP standards. I think that was a positive though — in that the model and our data room reflected our approach to the business. It backed up our story and was really easy to use.
- I’m from a design background — having started Farewill out of the Royal College of Art — so I’m meticulous about formatting. The feedback was that our data room was definitely unconventional, but also definitely the most stylish anyone had seen (not sure I’d do this again).
What did you learn re deck, pitching & storytelling during funding?
- Storytelling is king (at least for us!).
- When you walk into a VC with a wills & probate business you can get funny looks. It’s not a market people are used to, and there can be raised eyebrows at the size of the market. Figuring out how to dispel those myths on slide 1 is the challenge.
- Lots of investors are used to seeing property technology pitch decks which often start “Buying a property is the biggest financial transaction of your life”. I like to go in, reference that, then say “it’s not actually true, the biggest financial event of your life is when you die.” That normally gets a good reaction.
- Secondly, in terms of framing our market, there’s really a timing effect in there. Over the next 10 years, £1T of assets are going to pass intergenerationally. It’s hugely increasing year on year as a result of baby boomers and the housing boom — meaning lots more people are dying, with a lot more money.
- Being able to drop in the trillion always helps.
Any other thoughts / anecdotes about your Series A?
- I started raising the day after I had quite major surgery on my face — so my first 20 meetings I had a bandage covering my head and was often covered in blood. It kept falling off so I ended up just sticking bandages to myself with tape. I had some particularly horrified looks when one accidentally went into my coffee. Still — it got the dedication across, hopefully!
- Overwhelmingly I enjoyed it. I met some brilliant, thoughtful investors — all of whom were respectful of my time and genuinely interested in the business. Aside from the team at Augmentum who are all phenomenal and entrepreneurs themselves, I particularly like the Creandum team — especially Johan and Sanna — they were kind, customer-focused, and with a great track record
- It’s also really important to have a cheerleader with know-how. For me that was Tracy Dorée — who chairs our board — and to whom I am forever grateful!
The Family (AAA) is dedicated to helping ambitious founders raise the best Series A possible. Education is a big part of that, so keep an eye out for more of our content. And of course, if you’re thinking of raising a Series A in the next 4–12 months and want to take part in our programme, get in touch! (👉 firstname.lastname@example.org / aaa.thefamily.co)